Fishing fans may not realize it, but when it comes to the pursuit of the $500,000 top prize in this week's Bassmaster Classic, Wednesday is a perhaps the most pivotal day.
The casts made by the 50 Classic contenders won't officially count on that day. Although they won't begin casting for fame and fortune until Friday, Wednesday is the lone practice day in preparation for the three-day world-championship event.
For the first time since last week's three-day scouting session, the anglers will be back on the water scouring all 12,000 acres of Alabama's Lay Lake to hopefully find where 15 bass are living that will provide the most fortunate pro with the Classic crown.
The Classic pros were on nearby Lake Logan Martin on Saturday and Sunday participating in the fourth annual Junior Bassmaster World Championship. Since Lay and Logan Martin are similar in terms of habitat and its combination of largemouth/spotted bass, their participation with the young anglers might have helped clue them into what to look for during the practice day.
The pros only have eight hours to check their best spots found during the pre-practice period or find new productive areas.
When it comes to the lone Classic practice day, the pros employ various philosophies. Some won't check their best spots so that they aren't seen fishing there by a competitor. Others will hit those spots to make sure that the bass haven't moved. Still others will spend the day searching out new locations for the late winter/early spring largemouth or spots.
Here's a sampling of the pros' strategies for the all-important practice round on Wednesday:
Kentucky pro Kevin Wirth
"I'll wait for the weather conditions and go from there. I'll make a decision on where to go when I take off Wednesday morning. I don't ever check fish. I'm really looking for patterns more than anything. I'll search all new stuff and if I figure something out I'll look for more places like that."
Alabama pro Gerald Swindle
"I'm going to use it to figure out if the largemouth are biting. I know the areas to fish where the spots will be and it will be up to me to catch them. But I need to know if the largemouth are doing their thing because if they are you can win it on them.
"Whether I get a bite or not I'll spend all day doing it. I'll either rule it in or rule it out, brother."
Florida pro Terry Scroggins
"I'm going to go in the area where I found my fish and just try to expand it. I'm going to cut my hooks off and make sure I can get a bite there. I'm just going to fish that area and try to expand it a little bit."
Alabama pro Russ Lane
"I'll probably ride around and just do some looking to refresh my memory on everything. I want to look at water color and conditions — just take a good look at everything. I may fish a place or two, but I'm not really going to get after it that day.
"I probably won't fish my best stuff. If the conditions dictate that they're going to be on a specific place, I'm probably not going to fish it. I know what makes them get on particular places this time of year."
Oklahoma pro Jeff Kriet
"I'll probably maybe check a pattern that I think might be working during the three days of the tournament. Or if the weather changes enough, I might go out and try something different. For the most part, I'm going to try to establish a pattern that I think I can live with the next three days.
"I usually don't check my best spot. But I'm going to make damn sure I'm on the right end of the lake. But I for sure won't jerk on anything. I didn't jerk on a whole lot during pre-practice. I think the less educated the fish are the better."
Alabama pro Tim Horton
"With the Classic in Birmingham, you've got to realize there's going to be boat traffic. There's going to be a possibility that some of your spots get fished in the evening. So I think running patterns will be stronger than spots. I think also this being February this is going to be a pattern tournament instead of a location tournament. So I'll use the practice day to try to expand on the patterns that I found (last week)."